The preparation and implementation of the national forest programme is guided by a series of basic principles, listed in the table below. The application of these basic principles should enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of national planning and implementation of forestry activities and contribute significantly to the achievement of sustainable forestry development.
- The application of these basic principles will, of course, need to be adapted to the specific national context (political, social, economical, environmental) of the country concerned.
- These principles are considered essential for the successful implementation of the national forest programme. The order of presentation is purely coincidental and does not reflect any judgement of importance.
- At the same time, interpenetration of principles must be considered. Many principles sometimes reflect the same concept, e.g., participation or inter-sectoral aspects. This apparent redundancy underlines the conceptual unicity of this approach.
1.Sustainability of Forest Development
2.National Sovereignty and Country Leadership
5.Holistic and Inter-sectoral Approach
6.A Long-Term Iterative Process
8.Policy and Institutional Reforms
9. Consistency with the National Policy Framework and Global Initiatives
11.National Policy Commitment
Policies, programmes and reforms developed and implemented during the process must be sustainable. They must satisfy the needs of the present generation without jeopardising the capacity of future generations to cover their own needs.
The national forest programme policies and plans should be economically justified and feasible, financially viable, socially acceptable, environmentally sound and institutionally sustainable.
- In developing action programmes, care must be taken not to exceed the absorption capacity of proposed implementing institutions. Programmes and plans must be based on a realistic assessment of financial and institutional constraints and economic realities.
- Sustainability also implies that long-term dependence on external assistance must be avoided even if this seems necessary in the short-term.
- Capacity building is seen as a central element of the national forest programme as it increases the implementation capacity of all actors, private and public, involved in the process and decreases long-term dependence on external resources.
States have the sovereign right to use their forest resources in accordance with their own environmental policies and development needs. The preparation of a national forest programme is a national initiative for which each country must assume full leadership and responsibility.
In many developing countries and countries "in transition", technical and financial assistance from external sources may be necessary, but the leadership for preparation and implementation of the national forest programme must remain in the hands of the country and its institutions.
The Rio Declaration (issued at the end of UNCED) as well as Agenda 21 and the Forest Principles stress the need to develop "a new and equitable partnership". National forest programme strive to bring together stakeholders at all levels (local, regional, national and international) in a joint effort to achieve sustainable forest development. It is essential that stakeholders feel part of the process (appropriation) and are fully committed to it.
The strength of this partnership will lie in its ability to draw upon the specific capacity of the individual partners for its success. Each must be allowed to assume specific responsibilities and undertake specific actions according to its own abilities and potential advantages.
Thus, in many countries, strategic planning may best be led by central government institutions (with the participation of all stakeholders) while operational planning will be carried out at regional and local levels. Implementation of the national forest programme may be left mostly to the private sector, community-based organizations and NGOs.
Each country will need to find its own balance between public and private sector participation, central and decentralized participation, national and international inputs. This balance will need to be adjusted periodically as the country moves from one phase of the process to the other and as new social, economical and environmental requirements emerge, both on the national and international scenes.
National partners include politicians, government officials, community-based organizations, local communities and populations, NGOs, private interest and users groups, private enterprises and associations.
Women play a vital role in many aspects of forestry development. Gender issues should be given due consideration throughout the process and specific actions should be identified to facilitate the participation of women as fully integrated partners in all phases (planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation) of the process.
Regional and local level institutions (both public and private) are recognized as essential partners in the process. Mechanisms must be devised to ensure their participation at all stages.
The growing concern over the global impact of national issues calls for international solidarity and partnership. The more developed nations have the responsibility to cooperate with less advantaged countries in managing and sustaining forest resources for both their own benefit and that of the global community.
¿ International partners can include inter-governmental institutions, development banks, bilateral agencies and international NGOs.
National forest programmes are participatory processes. From planning to implementation and including evaluation, these promote and assist, when necessary, the participation of all stakeholders.
Through public participation the divergent views and conflicts of interests of the various stakeholders are openly recognised and can thus be resolved where possible. Issues, options and the resulting policies, strategies and programmes are agreed upon through participatory decision-making and consensus building among all interested partners. Participation is required in order to:
- raise awareness of the importance of forests and environment conservation for the benefit of present and future generations;
- enhance the dialogue between the forestry sector and other sectors of the economy in order to emphasize cross-sectoral issues and impact, to harmonize sectoral policies and actions, to ensure the full integration of the national forest programme within the national development plan and harmonization with other planning initiatives that influence forestry activities;
- identify the aspirations and promote the needs of various stakeholders with regard to forest lands and resources;
- strike a balance between forestry development activities and conservation imperatives in the light of perceived needs (present and future);
- develop a sense of "ownership" of the national forest programme (appropriation of the process) and commitment to the proposed policies and programmes by all partners, not only government institutions.
- Adequate consultation mechanisms involving concerned government and non-government organizations as well as the private sector, must be established. Often, particular attention will have to be given to ensure the participation of local and regional level organizations, women and local communities and populations.
- Various mechanisms exist to promote consultation and participatory decision-making. Each country will need to decide which is most appropriate.
- A strategy should be developed during the preparatory phase of the process, to ensure participation of all stakeholders. Such a strategy should aim at ensuring the transparency of the process, identifying consultation mechanisms and promoting information flow between partners at national, regional, local levels. The resources required to implement the strategy should also be identified.
5 HOLISTIC AND INTER-SECTORAL APPROACH
The national forest programme approach to forests and forestry is comprehensive and holistic. Forestry should be considered in the context of sustainable land management and environmental stability. In particular, this means that:
- forests are not seen only as large tracts of trees with commercial value, but as rich and diverse ecosystems comprising many inter-dependent elements in dynamic equilibrium;
- all forest lands are considered including those presently devoid of trees, such as degraded lands;
- not only wood products for commercial and domestic uses are considered, but also non-wood products and services from forest ecosystems including flora, fauna, soil, water, recreation and the ability to stock carbon and regulate climatic factors;
- the forestry sector is not viewed in isolation but with its linkages to other sectors of the economy, considering mutual impact of policies and practices;
- forests are not viewed strictly as short-term producers of goods for any specific group of users but also as serving long-term vital ecological functions at local, national as well as global levels.
- National forest programmes are concerned with many interwoven elements. A joint multidisciplinary effort is required for a successful programme. This effort must involve professionals in various fields of natural as well as human resources (including economists, lawyers, agronomists, environmental sciences specialists, sociologists and other social sciences experts).
A national forest programme is a long-term, on going process. It does not end with the preparation of a programme or plan or any specific result. Rather these are bench marks in a strategic cycle comprising planning as well as implementation, monitoring and evaluation activities.
A national forest programme is an iterative process. It is continuously adapted to reflect changes in the environment and the acquisition of new knowledge even during implementation. The various phases of the process are not carried out in isolation one after the other, but they are linked and in many cases, will overlap.
Monitoring is particularly important in an iterative process. It should start at the on-set of the planning phase of the national forest programme when specific monitoring objectives, procedures, criteria and indicators are defined.
Capacity building is one of the essential elements of national forest programme. Throughout the process, actions are taken to systematically develop the planning and implementation capacity of national institutions and other key actors involved and to decrease dependence on such external assistance where applicable.
Capacity building should be extended beyond public sector institutions to the private sector, community-based organizations and NGOs which are assuming an increasing role in forestry development activities. It must be noted that this applies to all countries and not only developing countries.
Through capacity building, the accountability and efficiency of public-sector institutions are systematically developed. In addition to traditional institutional strengthening (e.g. training, education, research, development of management systems), the activities should focus on three key issues:
- establishing the necessary conditions which enable public sector institutions to achieve and maintain high standards and attract qualified human resources;
- develop adequate skills and procedures for administering and supervising implementation of programmes and activities;
- develop monitoring and evaluation systems for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed policies and programmes.
One of the main objectives of national forest programme is to ensure that the national policy and institutional framework is conducive to sustainable forestry development.
In many countries, the lack of a coherent policy framework, appropriate (complementary) legislation and well defined (non overlapping) institutional structure are recognized as the most important factors that lead to forest degradation. Policies and policy instruments related to land use planning and land husbandry are still not coordinated towards the goal of sustainable development. Effective high level mechanisms for inter-sectoral coordination are rare.
Often, policy measures that influence most forest land and resource degradation fall outside the forestry sector (as usually defined). National policies relating to demography, environment, land tenure and distribution, industrial development, trade, energy and agriculture can have an overwhelming impact on trees and forests.
In the same way, forests and forestry activities can have a strong impact on many other sectors of the economy. Thus, national forest programmes must:
- address policy and institutional issues in a comprehensive manner which recognizes the inter-dependencies and relations between sectors;
- examine closely all inter-sectoral linkages and impacts and clarify which issues are within the forestry sector and which go beyond its scope;
- propose feasible actions to eliminate or reform counterproductive policies and policy measures.
- The collaboration of all national partners to this joint endeavour is crucial to ensure better integration of forestry, agriculture and other related sectors.
National forest programmes must be integrated into National Development Plans and maintain organic links with them. They should be compatible with sub-national and local development plans and strategies.
National forest programmes should also be conceived, on the one hand, within the national strategic guideline framework for land use if already formulated, or on the other, taking into account its future formulation
Moreover, the national forest programme must be linked to broader, "higher-level" planning exercises, such as National Environmental Action Plans, National Strategies for Nature Conservation (or similar programmes and strategies) as well as to current initiatives to implement Agenda 21 (particularly chapter 11) and the Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification Control. The formulation and implementation of national forest programmes should also take into consideration current efforts to develop guidelines, criteria and indicators for sustainable forestry development.
The national forest programme approach should aim to avoid duplication with other strategic planning initiatives and to ensure that such initiatives complement and reinforce one another.
The value of forests and the contribution of the forestry sector to national economies are considerably underestimated. Fuelwood (that accounts for more than 80 percent of wood consumption in many countries), wood products used locally and non-wood forest products, both the recreational and tourism value of forests, as well as its role as ecological regulator are usually overlooked in public accounts. National forest programmes should strive to document and draw attention to the full value of forest lands and resources and their contribution to economies and sustainable development.
Politically compelling arguments for forest conservation and sustainable forestry development must be found as well as support from a "critical mass" of well informed and motivated key decision-makers committed to the national forest programme, as these need to be adopted at the highest political and decision-making levels.
One of the essential roles of the national forest programme is to raise the visibility of forestry and its priority in national agendas. The role of media and NGOs in this respect is essential and should be fully recognized.
In order to play an efficient role, the process must be backed by strong political commitment at the highest level. Also, this commitment must be long-term in order to go beyond the planning phase to include implementation.
All stakeholders, from both the public and private sectors, should commit themselves to implement the measures mutually agreed upon during the planning phase. They should be willing to dedicate their efforts and resources, according to their respective capacities, for the successful implementation of the programme.
Financing institutions, development agencies and international NGOs, in countries where they will be called to play a role, should also commit themselves to the successful implementation of the national forest programme. In particular they should:
- enhance coordination, consultation and cooperation in order to avoid unnecessary and costly duplication of efforts, particularly when these imply the use of scarce national human and financial resources;
- respect the policies, strategies and programmes agreed upon during the national forest programme planning phase and adapt their own priorities to national priorities;
- seek ways and means to ensure the timely delivery of the assistance as planned;
- avoid short-term commitments and shifting priorities, a practice that is particularly harmful in the forestry sector where investments, changes of attitudes and capacity building tend to have a long gestation period.